Playing Poker in Syria

Dear Pita-consumers~

The United States’ Intelligence officials say that they are in the process of showing all their cards in a high-stakes poker game.  It’s high-stakes not because over 100,000 Syrians have been killed…but because a smaller number have been killed with Sarin gas….a chemical weapon.

Today the U.S. Senate passed the authorization bill for limited U.S. strikes in Syria to respond to, what the U.S. intelligence reports believe, chemical weapons use by the Assad regime.  However, the U.S. House will need to also debate and review the bill before its implementation–which cannot happen until September 9th, at the earliest.  Already, U.S. Speaker of the House, John Boehner, stated, “This is something the as a country needs to do. I’m going to support the president’s call for action.”  On the academic side, former White House official, and Dean at Johns Hopkins, Vali Nasr, argues in the New York Times that, “It’s in America’s strategic interest to take decisive action to mortally wound the Assad regime.”  We’ve heard of ‘surgical strikes‘ and even the possible “Plan Assassinate Assad” in other media.

Earlier, Saturday August 31st, the UN investigation team evacuated Syria to deliver its four-day report back to the UN.  Kuwait sent planes to evacuate their residents from Lebanon, according to UN weapons inspectors pull out of ahead of schedule .  (Meanwhile, Asma Al-Assad has dealt with her husband’s role in the deteriorating Syria situation via ‘Retail Therapy‘.  Wealthy Syrians live ‘normally’ as US raises pressure )  It is worth noting that the UK debate on the subject has gone a full 180 degrees on its stance to opt for military intervention without more evidence of Assad regime use of chemical weapons.  Germany remains in abstention, while Russia and China will veto any motion to launch strikes on Syria–unless they say otherwise.

Since the chemical weapons reports resulting in 1,400+ deaths, humanitarian and Syria activists have made strong arguments both for and against military intervention, which would involve British, French, and US resources. U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry (@JohnKerry) noted the vehement anti-military intervention protestors in the Syria Hearing.  As he explained, that’s why he, Secretary of Defense Hagel, and General Dempsey “are especially sensitive to faulty intelligence… thats why we’ve declassified info

It’s Complicated:

  1. Just because one is Anti-Regime does not imply that one is Pro-Intervention: Opposition Has Mixed Feelings About US Plan
  2. Must examine risks in taking no action
  3. Although we have support, why don’t we have MORE participation by those in this military option? Senator Cardin raised a salient point, that, if the the military intervention has so many other country supporters, what resources will they commit to finance this operation…or even participate…

Activists who are Anti-Strike argue:

  1. So, the US will intervene because of weapons use not because of other ? in response to Secretary Kerry’s argument: “Need to send message that when the US says ‘Never Again’, we mean ‘Never Again!'”
  2. “The US has no interest in Democracy in .Look at Hafez who joined against . Israel, & Stability.”~

Activists who are Pro-Strike argue:

  1. is haemorrhaging women, children.” Numbers displaced by escalating conflict reaches 6.2 million.
  2. : the regime cannot gas or shoot his way out of his predicament. What is the message? He’s been granted impunity!”
  3. “Any strikes will be claimed by the regime to have killed innocents or the wrong people.”
  4. Use every buzzword possible, eg:  : I want to continue “building capacity of vetted, moderate opposition” such that strikes would, hopefully, empower opposition.

In particular, Peace & Conflict Resolution activist, Ramah Kudaimi, reviewed the debate festering within the activist community on Syria.  Here is an excerpt of Kudaimi’s op-ed:

With Syria back in the news due to the horrific chemical weapons attack last week that killed hundreds and threats from the US to engage in military strikes, below are some do’s and don’ts for progressive/radical anti-war organizations/activists in the US as you figure out a proper response.

1. DON’T in any way say or imply both sides are wrong and it’s not clear who we would be supporting if we get involved militarily. This is an insult to every Syrian who has and continues to go out in the streets and protest both the regime and those forces who are looking to use this time of war to assert their own power over others. It is a shame how many progressive groups in the US just jump on the “both sides are bad” wagon so we shouldn’t get involved. There are one million children who are refugees and that is the fault of the regime. It is the regime who is bombing cities with jets; it is the regime that has ruled the country with brutal force for decades. Any statement that doesn’t acknowledge this is again an insult to those who have sacrificed so much.

2. DON’T over conflate Iraq and Syria. Just as ludicrous those who look to Kosovo as an example of military intervention to support it in Syria are, it is quite pathetic when so many progressives and leftists are just obsessed with supposedly false chemical weapons claims. There are 100,000 Syrians dead, majority killed by conventional weapons. So there are a million and one excuses for the US to intervene and faking chemical weapons attacks is not needed. There is also no basis I believe in claiming al Qaeda has access and uses such weapons. Al Qaeda fought the US for a decade in Iraq and not once deployed such weapons. But all of a sudden they’re using them in Syria? And if the rebels had these weapons, the regime would’ve fallen a long time ago.

3. DON’T obsess over al-Qaeda, Islamist extremists, jihadists, etc. Since 9/11 progressives have rightly shunned the use of all these labels when it comes to the US War on Terror, yet we now use them freely when it comes to Syria and actually believe it. The overwhelming majority of Syrians, both those who have taken arms and those who continue to resist through nonviolent means, have nothing to do with the extremist groups and are rising up against all forces who are destroying their country, whether they be regime or supposed “opposition” groups. It is also important to understand that the Free Syria Army is not a central command army with orders given from the top. It is a loosely affiliated group of different battalions and anyone can claim to be part of it.

4. DO point out all the US failures toward Syria and how dropping bombs on the country is not what is needed. I personally don’t believe that US is going to get militarily involved. They promised weapons to the rebels and have yet to deliver. No way is the US getting in because as has been pointed out by Gen. Martin Dempsey and in a NYT opinion piece, it is so much for useful for US “interests” for Syrians to kill each other. I think taking a position of the US should not get involved through a military intervention is fine. DON’T put it as “Hands off Syria” implying this is some kind of American conspiracy. DON’T argue this is about US not having a right to taking sides in a civil war. DON’T make it all about money for home since we do want more humanitarian aid. DO frame it as what will help bring the suffering of Syrians to an end.

5. DO point out US hypocrisy as it judges Russia for sending weapons to the regime. Just last week a story came out that the US is sending $640 million worth of cluster bombs to Saudi. Weapons continue to flow to Egypt, Bahrain, and Israel despite massive human rights violations. DO call for an end to all sales of weapons to all regimes in the region. Continue reading excerpt of Kudaimi’s op-ed

As such, here are some PITAPOLICY responses to the military option conversation:

  •  : US intervention is a nat’l security inerst & to show we haven’t abandoned them
  • Why does boil down to Israel?
  • How has diplomacy failed? For example, the US has MISSED opportunities to engage: eg Pentagon bought helicopters from Russia 4 Afghanistan war
  • The most disappointing observation of all pro-military intervention proponents: Senator McCain sat in the Syria hearing playing Poker on his phone.  We don’t know if we are more surprised that he picked this particular game subconsciously, or that he was even aware that he could operate his phone to play games.


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Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics), Politics

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